North Africa's telecoms market is set to remain on of the most dynamic of the emerging regions, judging by the successful opening of this year's North Africa Com congress. The event opened today in Cairo with a stellar line up of speakers and record breaking attendance, allowing busy networking among the participants.
According to my colleagues attending the event, the discussions focused on how to move the region's telecommunications market forward, as telecommunications companies in the region are adapting their strategies to face new market conditions. Following several years of high growth and increasing competition, the telecommunications sector isn't as affected as others by the global economic downturn, but operators are facing new challenges related to investment, consumer spending and high operating costs.
The programme included strong representation from host country Egypt, Algeria (one of Africa's fastest growing markets), as well as leading operators in Tunisia and Morocco.
Emerging markets specialist Orascom Telecom was represented by Mr Tamer El Mahdi, the CEO of the Algerian branch – Djezzy – OT’s most profitable branch. Mr El Mahdi described how Djezzy is “fighting in the trenches” as the changing economy begins to affect telecommunications in North Africa, but he also painted a positive picture of the operator overall, describing how revenue is rising steadily, as well as a similar trend in cutting costs – very promising for this leading operator. There were also positive messages from Dr Olfat Abdel Monsef, Vice President, National Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (NTRA), Egypt, as she described the regulators aim of a more simplified regulatory process, eventually focusing more on competition regulation – rather than licences, etc.
Other leading speakers from Day 1 included Mr Abderrahmane Mounir, Director of B2B for Meditel, Morocco, Jean-Carl Mazigi, Chief Strategy Officer for Wataniya Telecom Algeria (Nedjma), Sami Ayoub, Deputy-CEO, Tunisie Telecom, Khaled Hegazay, Corporate Affairs Director, Vodafone Egypt, Ricardo Tavares, Senior VP, Public Policy, GSMA, Wael Fakhanary, Egypt & NA Manager, Google. This broad spectrum of industry thought leaders brought a wealth of experience and perspectives to this opening day, and it has been a valuable “well organised event” for delegates, according to Mr Sami Ayoub, Deputy-CEO of Tunisie Telecom.
The main messages taken from today included the benefits and challenges for 3G services in North Africa – with some countries facing the prospect of no 3G at all in the case of Algeria. Furthermore, the need to accommodate for increasing numbers of subscribers and to understand user behaviour. Finally, a key message has been that operators need to keep adapting in this dynamic region, leading service providers like Djezzy may have a huge market share for now, but operators need to ensure that they do not focus solely on voice services. As Mr Fakharany from Google said “operators with big market share in voice – but if there are no 3G services – this is dangerous for the future.”
The high level of the talks in the conference encouraged lively debate among the congress participants, who were networking enthusiastically in between sessions. Despite budget restrictions among the region's companies, executives from over 20 countries travelled to the event, representing a broad picture of the telecommunications sector: leading operators, alternative service providers, regulators and government bodies, industry associations, and providers of a range of solutions for telecommunications operators (from infrastructure to co-location solutions, power, CRM and more).
The second day of the event will include even more presentations and debate from leading regional figures, including; Hatem Dowidar, CEO, Vodafone Egypt, Hassan Kabbani, CEO, Mobinil Egypt, Charles-Henri Levaillant, Corporate VP, Strategy & Development, Vivendi Group (share holders of Maroc Telecom), Mr Cherif Yaici, Director of Business Strategy, Algerie Telecom Group, Mohammed Bouhelal, Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, Canar Telecom Sudan, Marwan Hayek, VP Technologies, Mobinil Egypt, and more!
The second day of the event opens at 9 at the JW Marriott. Don't miss it if you're in Cairo.